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Tri Talk Tuesday: Race Day Fueling

It’s Tuesday again (the week’s fly by when you’re training for an IM!) and I’m back again for Tri Talk Tuesday. Today’s theme chosen by the lovely CourtneyMiranda, and Cynthia is yet again, one of my favorite topics: Nutrition… specifically, RACE DAY FUELING! 

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If you asked me a year ago what I do for race day fueling, I would tell you that I don’t really have a plan (ever) and I just kind of wing it.  I wasn’t reckless about my race day fueling, but I definitely wasn’t smart about it. I raced triathlons for six years before even taking a sip of sports drink… thinking just water was OK all the time. No wonder my legs would cramp up on the run!

I knew when I signed up for IMMT, things had to change, but I wasn’t quite sure in what way.  This is when I made the decision to have a Race Fueling Plan done by The Core Diet, a group of Sports Nutritionists who are affiliated with my Triathlon Team, QT2. Getting a race fueling plan was life changing for me!  If you sign up for an Ironman, I highly recommend doing this. Who knew that I could elevate my performance EVEN further if I just took in more calories, sugar, sodium, etc on the bike and run?! I sure as heck didn’t, until I saw it for myself.

Here are some things I’ve learned about race fueling while training for my Ironman.  These tips not only apply to Ironmans, but any distance Triathlon (or running race)

1. Do not… I repeat… DO NOT, try anything new on race day.

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I have learned the hard way with this one (i.e. last fall’s Chicago Marathon making a bee line to the porta potties).  You never never never want to try anything new, whether it’s sports drink, gels, whatever, on race day.  You will risk having stomach problems among other things if you try something new. Spend time getting to know your race day nutrition inside and out, that way your body knows what to expect on race day.  This will lead to fewer surprises!

2. Continuing with above… PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.

I can’t stress this enough my fellow tri-people!  You have to practice your race day fueling well before the race, and I’m not talking just a few days.  It’s imperative to practice your race fueling plan WELL before the race, so you know what your body can and cannot handle.  The longer the race, the longer the practice.  I have been practicing my race fueling plan for IMMT since December. I know what I have to eat and drink and at what time intervals.  My training nutrition and my race fueling plan work in harmony, which leads to less problems on race day.

3. Fiber is not your friend (before race day).

Cut out fiber 1-2 days before your race (depending on the distance of your race).  When I am doing a longer distance race, i.e. a Marathon or Half Ironman, I cut out fiber starting at lunch two days before my race.  If I am doing an Olympic Triathlon, I will cut out fiber from my diet 24 hours before the race. Not to gross anyone out, but for YEARS I spent countless race mornings going to the porta potties with GI emergencies, it was not pretty. Who knew that I wasn’t supposed to eat fibrous foods like almonds, peanut butter, fruit, etc, right before a race… no wonder! Now that I have followed my ‘fiber elimination’ plan for race day, it has made a WORLD of difference. I no longer have stomach pains/bathroom issues before and during the race. If you tend to have GI issues at a race, I strongly recommend doing the same.

4. Enjoy those pancakes, lots of ’em!

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Before this year’s Boston Marathon, I never really followed the whole carb loading theory. To be quite honest, I was afraid of eating all those carbs (I know, I’m crazy). I did my first BIG carb load before the Boston marathon this year and have now carb loaded for every race since!  The key thing is, to carb load the most in the morning before your race, and as the day goes on, eat less carbs. This means have a giant pancake breakfast with lots of syrup the morning before your race.  A good example of a carb load is: 3 large buttermilk pancakes, 2 pieces of toast plus some scrambled eggs for a little protein.  The key thing is, to avoid fiber during your carb load (as mentioned above), i.e. not eating foods with tons of grains and also avoiding things high in fat (like lots of butter). The way I remember this is to think of all of the carbs I try an avoid on a regular basis, the ones that have little to no nutrients, and eat those! It’s fun to indulge because you know you will burn it off the next day anyways and it will help your race:)

5. That salt is not just for your Margarita.  

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Taking in extra salt can make or break a race!  For most of us, Triathlon season happens in the summer and conditions are typically warm (and humid!).  This means we need to take in extra SALT when we race, especially during those ‘triple H’ days (hazy, hot and humid). Salt can be in the form of a sports drink (for me, that’s Power Bar Perform), Salt Stick tabs, sports gels, etc.  I have been taking Salt Stick Tabs recently in my triathlons (plus sports drink of course), and it’s made a world of difference for me.  Taking in extra salt can not only prevent stomach bloating, but can minimize heat stress and muscle cramping. Think of when you are racing in a triathlon, going from bike to run on a hot summer day… this is when you want those salt tabs!

What do you like to do for race fueling?  

What lessons have you learned the hard way with race fueling?

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11 Comments

  • Reply Kristen @ Glitter and Dust July 16, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    When I first started doing marathons, I would always eat a bowl of Fiber One (no joke) and peanut butter the day before a long run or race, and then wonder why I was experiencing so many “issues”. Duh! As soon as I cut out fiber the day(s) before the run, I never had major issues again. I have never tried salt caps but see people using them all the time. I may have to go out and get some of these as my skin is typically covered in white salt after a long workout in the sun. Great tips!

    • Reply Kristin July 18, 2014 at 1:40 am

      Omg fiber is the devil when it comes to marathons… bad news! It looks like you learned the hard way:( Omg you have to try salt caps, your life (and training) will never be the same!

  • Reply Gabi @ LeanGreenIslandGirl July 16, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    Awesome post! All true and great tips. Just had pancakes for breakfast this morning!

    • Reply Kristin July 18, 2014 at 1:39 am

      Thank you! Pancakes are the best when IM training!

  • Reply Kecia July 17, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    Great advice!! I’ve definitely learned not to only consume water the hard way…hyponatremia during my last Ironman wasn’t a pleasant experience. I’m definitely doing things different this time around 🙂

    • Reply Kristin July 18, 2014 at 1:31 am

      Yikes! that’s really scary Kecia! It sounds like you learned the hard way… What type of nutrition will you drink during the bike?

  • Reply Courtney @The TriGirl Chronicles July 17, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    I finally discovered salt tab this year. What a difference in my legs, holy cow! I don’t know how I went without them before!

    • Reply Kristin July 18, 2014 at 1:27 am

      Salt tabs rock my world! I don’t know how I went until this year without them either! crazy!

  • Reply Leslie @ Triathlete Treats July 19, 2014 at 11:33 pm

    Great tips! I have to have some solids. I have been using uncrustables/Picky Bars/Larabars + Power Bar perform for the bike. I use Gu and Clif shots for the run!
    I haven’t really had any problems at least no GI problems!! Just not taking in enough calories is problem enough! 🙁

    • Reply Kristin July 22, 2014 at 8:26 pm

      Funny you mention this about the solids… I am going to be eating Power Bars on the bike course, at least in the beginning. I love picky bars, but I have figured out they don’t work well with my stomach while biking.. they are perfect for hiking though! I love clif shot blocks for the run!!

  • Reply Ironwoman Wednesday: Recovery | Sweat Courage July 23, 2014 at 5:48 pm

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